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Mitchell Finkelstein, right, is shown at the Ontario Securities Commission in 2011.Brett Gundlock/The Globe and Mail

Former Bay Street lawyer Mitchell Finkelstein told an Ontario Securities Commission panel on Friday that he never gave a long-time friend confidential information on impending corporate deals to use for illegal insider trading.

"I made a practice of not disclosing any information outside the firm about my clients," Mr. Finkelstein, 45, told the hearing, testifying in his own defence.

His career as a top partner working on big corporate transactions for Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP came crashing down in 2010, when OSC staff alleged he had given Montreal CIBC financial adviser Paul Azeff tips about impending corporate deals involving the law firm's clients.

The allegations have not been proven. The hearing, before a three-member panel of the OSC, could result in financial penalties or bans on participating in the capital markets or serving as an officer or director of a public company.

The case, one of the most high-profile tipping or insider-trading prosecutions ever launched by Ontario's financial markets regulator, revolves around an array of circumstantial evidence. The OSC is relying on detailed cross-referencing of Mr. Finkelstein's computer file access records at Davies, his phone conversations with Mr. Azeff and subsequent stock purchases by Mr. Azeff and others who allegedly profited from insider trading.

Mr. Finkelstein told the panel that he often accessed files on Davies' computer system, even those he was not working on, to examine them for precedents, or for "educational" purposes. He also said it was easy to "accidentally" call up a wrong file, and that he knew full well his "data trail" could later be traced.

He did tell the panel that he regularly chatted with Mr. Azeff by phone at work. But Mr. Finkelstein said that when he chatted with Mr. Azeff, with whom he attended a University of Western Ontario fraternity, he never spoke to him about his work at Davies, instead talking about college memories, family matters and the like.

Mr. Azeff was also acting as Mr. Finkelstein's financial adviser.

The OSC alleges that Mr. Finkelstein made large cash deposits after meeting with Mr. Azeff. But Mr. Finkelstein said that none of the money came from Mr. Azeff or anyone else involved in the hearing, and that the large cash deposits were a byproduct of his long-standing habit of keeping tins containing as much as $30,000 of cash in his house as "emergency funds."

Mr. Finkelstein, who earned more than $830,000 from Davies in 2007, went through his banking records for the panel, explaining a series of large cash deposits that he said were related to various expenses, such as car repairs, the acquisition of a new BMW, and upcoming tax instalment payments.

His lawyer, Gordon Capern, told the panel that the OSC, despite a seven-year probe, had failed to provide any evidence linking the cash to Mr. Azeff or anyone else.